3 Characters by Sunwatchers with Eugene Chadbourne (with contributions from Mike Watt).
Label Link: 3 Characters
The 3 Characters of the title are D. Boon, Doug Sahm, and Henry Flynt.
D. Boon was the lead singer of the Minutemen. Doug Sahm was a founding member of the bands The Sir Douglas Quintet and the Texas Tornados. Henry Flynt was involved with Terry Riley and Lamont Young, along with John Cale, in the early years of New York Minimalism. He went on to record prolifically from his home. But most of his recordings didn’t see wider release until the 2000s. He was an anti-art artist, and an anti-music musician. He wrapped up influences from the avant garde with American roots music.
Eugene Chadbourne, well, I don’t quite know how to start that one. I first saw him when I was at UW-Madison in the 1980s. He is an incredibly talented guitarist, banjo player, and instrument inventor. He has been known to attach electric pickups to just about everything from a bird cage to a rake and deploy them in concerts. He started playing “Free Jazz” with Anthony Braxton. Played in bands with John Zorn and Henry Kaiser. Was in a rock-ish band with Mark Kramer called Shockabilly. Had a long running band with members of Camper Van Beethoven called “Camper Van Chadbourne”. Has had a long a productive solo career, and more collaborations than I can list here. I would say his primary interests, like that of Henry Flynt, are in the sort of confluence between what could be called avant garde music and American Roots music, but also with a tendency towards pop music tropes, as in the Beatles.
Sunwatchers are a perfect band for Chadbourne. Like him, they are incredibly talented and chimeric musicians, who can be rocking a tune one second, and in the blink of an eye turn the corner to African or Classical influences.
Aside from Flynt, I don’t know that I would have thought of either the Minutemen or the Sir Douglas Quintet as influences on Chadbourne or Sunwatchers, but I have to say The Minutemen’s politically inspiring music has once again gained a hearty resonance in today’s world. How great is it to hear Chadbourne and Sunwatchers rip into “Political Song for Michael Jackson”, “The Product”, and “Bob Dylan Wrote Propaganda Songs”? Though, I think, to be honest, the Chadbourne/Sunwatchers versions of the Sir Douglas Quintet Songs, “Too Many Docile Minds” and “Give Me Back the Keys to My Heart” are maybe the best expression of the combination of their spirits. Well, that and Henry Flynt’s great rant of a song, “Uncle Sam Do”, which I wish lasted about 20 minutes longer than its 8 minutes.
“Nobody talk peace, like Uncle Sam Do. Nobody talkin’ peace, like Uncle Sam Do. Uncle Sam he talks peace, then he drops napalm on you.”
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